Famous 20th Century Martial Artists

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 1 
Bruce Lee
(The Most Influential Martial Artist of All Time)
Bruce Lee
42
Birthdate: November 27, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: July 20, 1973

An iconic actor and martial artist, Bruce Lee, in his short life, gained international fame and developed his own form of martial arts, Jeet Kune Do. In films, he debuted as a child actor and became a huge Hollywood star after the release of his last film Enter the Dragon.

 2 
Chuck Norris
(Martial Artist and Actor Best Known for His Action Movies)
Chuck Norris
26
Birthdate: March 10, 1940
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ryan, Oklahoma, United States

A black belt in Tang Soo Do, Brazilian jiu jitsu and Judo, Chuck Norris is an American martial artist, screenwriter and a popular action film star. He has won many martial arts championships. He later founded his own discipline, Chun Kuk Do. He has also written books on martial arts, philosophy, politics, Christianity, plus Western novels and biography.

 3 
Donnie Yen
(Actor and Director Known for His Roles in the 2008 Film ‘Ip Man’ and the 2002 Film ‘Hero')
Donnie Yen
14
Birthdate: July 27, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Donnie Yen is a Hong Kong martial artist, actor, stuntman, action choreographer, director, and producer. He has won several wushu tournaments and is credited for introducing mixed martial arts to mainstream Asian cinema. He is also credited with introducing UFC champion Zhang Weili to MMA. Donnie Yen has won several awards like Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards.

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 4 
Yip Man
(Martial Artist and a Grandmaster of the Martial Art 'Wing Chun')
Yip Man
20
Birthdate: October 1, 1893
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Foshan, China
Died: December 2, 1972

Yip Man was a Chinese martial artist best remembered for teaching martial arts to the famous Chinese American martial artist, Bruce Lee. Yip Man is credited with teaching not only Bruce Lee but also many other students who went on to become martial arts masters. A biographical martial arts film titled Ip Man was inspired by his life and career.

 5 
Jackie Chan
(One of the Most Popular Action Film Stars of All Time Known for His 'Slapstick Acrobatic' Fighting Style)
Jackie Chan
12
Birthdate: April 7, 1954
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Jackie Chan is a martial artist, actor, film director, screenwriter and singer and is known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing and innovative stunts in his films, which he performs himself. Rumble in the Bronx, Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour are some of his popular Hollywood films. He has a widespread following in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

 6 
Jean-Claude Van Damme
(Actor and Martial Artist Best Known for His Martial Arts Action Movies ‘Bloodsport’, ‘Cyborg’ and ‘Kickboxer’)
Jean-Claude Van Damme
2
Birthdate: October 18, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Belgium

Belgian actor,Jean-Claude Van Damme is best known for a string of martial arts films. He started his career as a karate fighter and competed in a number full-contact and semi-contact matches. Later he took up acting and became a star with the 1988 Hollywood film, Bloodsport. Cyborg, Lionheart, Double Impact and Universal Soldier are some of his notable films.

 7 
Jet Li
(Actor and Martial Artist Who was All-Around Youth Champion in the National Wushu Competition)
Jet Li
10
Birthdate: April 26, 1963
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Beijing, China

Jet Li is one of the most popular Asian actors to have made it big in the American film industry. A martial artist and former Wushu champion, he won a national championship before retiring from competitive Wushu to focus on his acting career. Also a well-known philanthropist, Jet Li is closely associated with the Red Cross Society of China.

 8 
Scott Adkins
(Actor who gained noteriety for his role as Yuri Boyka in the 2006 film Undisputed 2)
Scott Adkins
22
Birthdate: June 17, 1976
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sutton Coldfield

Scott Adkins is an English actor, producer, and screenwriter. He is a trained gymnast and martial artist and is best known for his action films. He played Casey Bowman in the film Ninja and its sequel Ninja: Shadow of a Tear. He considers Jean-Claude Van Damme to be his idol and has appeared in four films with him.  

 9 
Bolo Yeung
(Hong Kong Bodybuilder, Martial Artist and Actor)
Bolo Yeung
10
Birthdate: July 3, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Guangzhou, China

Bolo Yeung is a Hong Kong retired competitive bodybuilder and martial arts film actor. He is best known for his performance in popular films like Enter the Dragon and Bloodsport. He has also played lead roles in films like Ironheart, which is regarded as a cult classic. As a bodybuilder, Yeung held the Mr. Hong Kong title for ten years.  

 10 
Dolph Lundgren
(Starred in Rocky IV as The Imposing Soviet Boxer 'Ivan Drago')
Dolph Lundgren
6
Birthdate: November 3, 1957
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Spånga, Sweden

Swedish actor, Dolph Lundgre,n is mainly known as an action hero. He gained recognition with the 1985 Hollywood film Rocky IV and then went on to do many action and thriller movies like Joshua Tree, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Bridge of Dragons, Universal Soldier, Diamond Dogs and The Expendables. He has also directed several films like Missionary Man and Icarus.

 11 
Shannon Lee
(Actress, Martial Artist & Businesswoman - The Only Living Child of Bruce Lee)
Shannon Lee
6
Birthdate: April 19, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Shannon Lee is the daughter of the most popular martial artist of all time, Bruce Lee. She followed in her father's footsteps to become an actress and martial artist. Shannon Lee is credited with upholding her father's legacy by serving as the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation. She is also the executive producer of Warrior, a series based on her father’s idea.

 12 
Michael Jai White
(The First African American to Portray a Major Comic Book Superhero in a Major Motion Picture)
Michael Jai White
6
Birthdate: November 10, 1967
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Michael Jai White is an American martial artist and actor. When he portrayed Al Simmons in the film Spawn, White became one of the first black actors to play a major comic book superhero in the history of American film industry. Known for his martial arts skills, White has played leading roles in popular action films like Mortal Kombat: Legacy.

 13 
Jason Scott Lee
(Best Known for Playing ‘Mowgli’ in ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Bruce Lee’ in ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story’)
Jason Scott Lee
6
Birthdate: November 19, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Jason Scott Lee is one of the most popular American actors and martial artists of Asian descent. In recognition of his work and the positive image he has created for Asians in America, the Asian-American magazine website Goldsea ranked him seventh in its list of The 130 Most Inspiring Asian Americans of All Time.

 14 
Martin Kove
(Actor Who is Best known for The Karate Kid (1984))
Martin Kove
10
Birthdate: March 6, 1946
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
 15 
Cat Zingano
(Mixed martial artist)
Cat Zingano
11
Birthdate: July 1, 1982
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Winona, Minnesota, United States

Mixed martial artist Cat Zingano, who currently represents Bellator MMA, is a world champion in the bantamweight and flyweight divisions and had begun training in martial arts at 12. A brown belt and a world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, she also teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Thai, and wrestling.

 16 
Iko Uwais
(Actor)
Iko Uwais
6
Birthdate: February 12, 1983
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Jakarta, Indonesia
 17 
Sammo Hung
(Hong Kong Actor, Martial Artist, Producer and Director)
Sammo Hung
4
Birthdate: January 7, 1952
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: British Hong Kong

Sammo Hung is a Hong Kong actor, filmmaker, and martial artist. He is best known for his work in martial arts films and played an important role in commencing the Hong Kong New Wave movement of the late-1970s and 1980s. He is also credited with helping many of his fellow actors establish themselves in the Hong Kong film industry.

 18 
Cub Swanson
(Featherweight Mixed martial artist)
Cub Swanson
5
Birthdate: November 2, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Palm Springs, California, United States

Cub Swanson is a professional mixed martial artist, currently affiliated with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he competes in the Featherweight division. He has been awarded "Fight of the Night" honors ten times. Industry experts consider him to be one of the most entertaining MMA fighters of all time. He is married to model and TV host Kenda Perez. 

 19 
Brandon Lee
(American Actor, Martial Artist and Son of Film Star Bruce Lee )
Brandon Lee
0
Birthdate: February 1, 1965
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oakland, California, United States
Died: March 31, 1993

The son of the legendary martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee followed in his father’s footsteps. Trained in martial arts, he made his film debut in the 1980s and became a successful star in his own right. He was accidentally wounded while filming The Crow and died. The film, dedicated to him, became a hit.

 20 
Lewis Tan
(Actor)
Lewis Tan
3
Birthdate: February 4, 1987
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Manchester, England, UK
 21 
Ip Chun
(Martial artist in the style of Wing Chun)
Ip Chun
5
Birthdate: July 10, 1924
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Foshan, China
 22 
Bruce Buffer
(Announcer, Kickboxer)
Bruce Buffer
7
Birthdate: May 21, 1957
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tulsa

Known for his popular catchphrase “It's time!," Bruce Buffer, the well-known MMA ring announcer, initially worked in the telemarketing industry. He and his half-brother, announcer Michael Buffer, whom Bruce had no clue about till he was an adult, now run The Buffer Partnership, a company to grow their brand value.

 23 
Joe Taslim
(Indonesian Actor and Martial Artist Known for His Films: ‘The Raid’, ‘Fast & Furious 6’ and ‘Mortal Kombat’)
Joe Taslim
7
Birthdate: June 23, 1981
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Palembang, Indonesia

Indonesian actor and martial art expert Joe Taslim is best known for his appearances in the films The Raid: Redemption and Fast and Furious 6. He was previously part of the Indonesian national judo team and had won several championships. He has also played Li Yong in the series Warrior.

 24 
Wong Jack Man
(Known for His Controversial Duel With Bruce Lee in 1964)
Wong Jack Man
3
Birthdate: 1941 AD
Birthplace: Hong Kong
Died: December 26, 2018

Chinese martial artist Wong Jack-man is best remembered for his duel with Bruce Lee in 1964. The duel was mired in controversy, as it was held privately in Oakland. There are different accounts of the fight, and Wong released his own version in the Chinese newspaper Chinese Pacific Weekly.

 25 
Matt Serra
(Mixed martial artist)
Matt Serra
5
Birthdate: June 2, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: East Meadow

Former mixed martial artist and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Matt Sera began his career in 1999, successfully competing in several championships before joining Ultimate Fighting Championship, winning a total of 11 bouts till 2010. Currently the co-owner of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school, he has also appeared in television productions like Chris Weidman: Untitled Documentary and Dana White: Lookin' for a Fight.

 26 
Wong Fei-hung
(Physician,Martial artist)
Wong Fei-hung
7
Birthdate: July 9, 1847
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Foshan, China
Died: April 17, 1925

Wong Fei-hung was a Chinese physician, martial artist, and folk hero. Wong is the subject of many television series and films. Between the 1940s and 1980s, Wong was portrayed by Hong Kong actor Kwan Tak-hing in over 70 films which earned Kwan the nickname Master Wong. Wong was also played by Jet Li in Once Upon a Time in China.

 27 
Jim Kelly
(Martial Artist and Actor Known for His Action Films ‘Enter the Dragon’ and ‘Black Belt Jones’)
Jim Kelly
5
Birthdate: May 5, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, Kentucky, United States
Died: June 29, 2013

Athlete and martial artist Jim Kelly won hearts with his Afro hairstyle and his roles in action film such as Enter the Dragon and Black Belt Jones. Apart from films, he also excelled in karate, winning contests such as the International Middle Weight Karate Championship. He has also played professional tennis.

 28 
Eddie Bravo
(Writer)
Eddie Bravo
9
Birthdate: May 15, 1970
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Santa Ana

Born Edgar Cano, martial arts instructor Eddie Bravo later took up the last name of his stepfather. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he has also launched the grappling tournament Eddie Bravo Invitational. He also developed his own signature style of martial arts, known as the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.

 29 
Antonio Inoki
(Japanese Retired Professional Wrestler and Founder of 'New Japan Pro-Wrestling')
Antonio Inoki
7
Birthdate: November 20, 1943
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Yokohama, Japan

Once a reputed Japanese martial artist and wrestler, Antonio Inoki grew up in Brazil, where he won several contests of shot put, discus, and javelin. At 17, he went to the Japanese Wrestling Association and was mentored by Rikidōzan. He later established the New Japan Pro Wrestling.

 30 
Jigoro Kano
(International sports pioneer who founded the martial art of judo and was the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee.)
Jigoro Kano
2
Birthdate: December 10, 1860
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hyogo, Japan
Died: May 4, 1938

Legendary Japanese athlete Jigoro Kano is remembered as the founder of judo. A fine educator, he had also had a 23-year stint as the principal of 2 schools, which later became the University of Tsukuba. He was also the first Asian to be part of the International Olympic Committee.

 31 
Carlos Gracie
(Martial Artist and Developer of ‘Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’)
Carlos Gracie
3
Birthdate: September 14, 1902
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Belém, Pará, Brazil
Died: October 7, 1994

Remembered as a pioneer of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Carlos Gracie was enrolled into wrestling classes to channelize his aggression in childhood. He also followed what is known as the Gracie diet. Thirteen of his 21 children have the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt. He and his family developed the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

 32 
Billy Blanks
(Actor, Martial Artist and Inventor of the Phenomenally Popular ‘Tae BO’ Fitness System)
Billy Blanks
9
Birthdate: September 1, 1955
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Erie, Pennsylvania, United States

Billy Blanks is a martial artist and fitness personality. He is the creator of the Tae Bo exercise program, a body fitness system that incorporates martial arts techniques. He started attending karate and taekwondo classes when he was 11 and proceeded to become a martial artist. He has also appeared in a few films and TV shows. 

 33 
Cynthia Rothrock
(American Martial Artist and Actress)
Cynthia Rothrock
7
Birthdate: March 8, 1957
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Cynthia Rothrock was not just a mixed martial artist but has also acted in various martial arts films. The Black Belt Hall of Famer began training in martial arts at 13 and eventually ended up being one of the first women martial artists to be featured on the martial arts magazine covers.

 34 
Frank Dux
(Martial artist, fight choreographer)
Frank Dux
6
Birthdate: April 6, 1956
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Toronto, Canada

Frank Dux is a Canadian martial artist and fight choreographer. He began his training in ninjutsu as a teenager. He claims he served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve for a few years and was awarded the Medal of Honor; however, this claim is disputed. He later founded his own school of ninjutsu called Dux Ryu Ninjutsu. 

 35 
Ben Rothwell
(Mixed martial artist, Kickboxer)
Ben Rothwell
5
Birthdate: October 17, 1981
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kenosha

A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Ben Rothwell represents UFC as a heavyweight. Nicknamed Big Ben, he gained weight as a child due to an illness and ended up fighting a lot, eventually taking up martial arts as a career. He and his wife now co-own a martial arts school.

 36 
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira
(Retired Mixed Martial Artist)
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira
5
Birthdate: June 2, 1976
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vitória da Conquista, Brazil
 37 
Sonny Chiba
(Japanese Actor and Martial Artist Known for His Role in the 1974 Film 'The Street Fighter')
Sonny Chiba
3
Birthdate: January 22, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fukuoka, Japan
Died: August 19, 2021

Sadao Maeda, better known as Sonny Chiba, was initially a talented gymnast, aspiring to be part of the Japanese Olympic team, though a back injury ended his sports career. Trained in martial arts, he later soared to fame with movies such as The Street Fighter. He died of COVID-19 at age 82.

 38 
Li Ching-Yuen
(Herbalist)
Li Ching-Yuen
5
Birthplace: Chongqing, China
Died: May 6, 1933

Li Ching-Yuen was a Chinese martial artist, herbalist, and tactical advisor. Li Ching-Yuen, who is believed to have lived off a diet of rice wine and exotic herbs throughout his life, is best remembered for his extreme longevity claim. According to his claim, Li Ching-Yuen lived for 250 years, although gerontologists consider that to be a myth.

 39 
Mas Oyama
(Founder of ‘Kyokushin Karate')
Mas Oyama
4
Birthdate: June 4, 1923
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Gimje, Zenra-hoku Prefecture, Korea
Died: April 26, 1994

Legendary Japanese karate master Mas Oyama, who founded Kyokushin Karate, was known by his fans as The God Hand. Known as someone who had fought bears and bulls with his bare hands, he was also an actor and author. Following his death, he was declared a God by a Japanese religion.

 40 
Joseph Benavidez
(Mixed martial artist)
Joseph Benavidez
3
Birthdate: July 31, 1984
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Antonio

WEC bantamweight fighter Joseph Benavidez had a 15-year career in combat sports, which included several top bantamweight and flyweight championship wins. Initially a screen printer in Mexico, he began his career with small boxing shows and began wrestling at age 16. He has also battled drug and alcohol abuse.

 41 
Morihei Ueshiba
(Japanese Martial Arts Master and Founder of the Martial Art of ‘Aikido’)
Morihei Ueshiba
4
Birthdate: December 14, 1883
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tanabe, Wakayama, Japan
Died: April 26, 1969

Morihei Ueshiba was a Japanese martial artist. Referred to as the Great Teacher, Ueshiba is credited with founding aikido, a martial art which is now practiced around the world. During the course of his career, Ueshiba set up many dojos, including the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, and taught several students, many of whom are celebrated martial artists in their own right.

 42 
Jake Shields
(Mixed martial artist)
Jake Shields
5
Birthdate: January 9, 1979
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Summertown, Tennessee, United States

Jake Shields is an American mixed martial artist who competes in the Professional Fighters League (PFL). Shields has also participated in other popular promotions like Rumble on the Rock, Elite Xtreme Combat, Strikeforce, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Jake Shields is a former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion. He is also a former EliteXC Welterweight Champion.

 43 
Darren Shahlavi
(Actor & Stunt Performer)
Darren Shahlavi
3
Birthdate: August 5, 1972
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Stockport, Cheshire, England
Died: January 14, 2015
 44 
Brandon Vera
(Mixed martial artist, Military personnel)
Brandon Vera
5
Birthdate: October 10, 1977
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Norfolk

Born in the US to an Italian mother and a Filipino father, Brandon Vera, better known as The Truth, initially joined college on an athletic scholarship but dropped out to join the US Airforce soon. The black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has also appeared on shows such as Kamandag and Magpakailanman.

 45 
Chuck Zito
(Actor, Boxer)
Chuck Zito
3
Birthdate: March 1, 1953
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States
 46 
Josh Thomson
(Mixed martial artist)
Josh Thomson
5
Birthdate: September 21, 1978
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: San Jose

MMA podcaster Josh Thomson, popularly known as The Punk, was previously a professional mixed martial artist and has represented promotion such as Bellator MMA, PRIDE, and UFC. He is best known for his bouts against Gilbert Melendez. The Strikeforce lightweight champion has previously worked in construction.

 47 
Gene LeBell
(Stunt Performer and Former Professional Wrestler Nicknamed 'Godfather of Grappling')
Gene LeBell
3
Birthdate: October 9, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Known as the Godfather of Grappling, Gene LeBell is a renowned martial artist and stuntman who has appeared in countless movies such as Raging Bull and Men in Black II. After mastering judo and winning several big tournaments, he excelled in wrestling, too. He has also penned  several books.

 48 
Ip Ching
(Hong Kong Martial Artist)
Ip Ching
3
Birthdate: July 7, 1936
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Foshan, China
Died: January 25, 2020

Ip Ching was a Hong Kong martial artist best remembered as a Grandmaster of the famous Ip Man family of Ving Tsun Kung Fu; he was only one of five Grandmasters of the family. Ip Ching and his brother Chun served as Wing Chun consultants for the film Ip Man 3 in which the former was portrayed by Jim Liu.

 49 
Michael Dudikoff
(American Actor Known for His Lead Roles in the 'American Ninja' and 'Bounty Hunters' Film Series)
Michael Dudikoff
5
Birthdate: October 8, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Redondo Beach, California, United States

Best known for his roles in films such as American Warrior and Bachelor Party, Michael Dudikoff is also a martial artist, well-versed in Brazilian Jujitsu, Judo, Karate, and Aikido. A child psychology major, he has also worked in real estate and loves designing homes and bronze sculpturing.

 50 
Robin Shou
(Marital arts actor who played Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat film franchise)
Robin Shou
5
Birthdate: July 17, 1960
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hong Kong